TC56

Accidents happened all the time on Mercury and for the most part no intervention by the nephilim was necessary. Sunset Chasers that failed to keep up with the setting sun went dormant and became Dawn Racers six months later, and vice versa. If a refinery fell into disrepair it was no big loss since the machines reproduced themselves. But a traffic jam at a choke point did require manual attention.

What was unusual about this particular traffic jam was that it occurred precisely at the terminal end of one of two dozen ion cannons radiating out over the surface of Mercury from the north pole, and even more unusual was that the cannon in question was the currently active one. A pair of technicians were scheduled to investigate the scene when the ground had sufficiently cooled.

Nadab and Danyel rode a tram out to the end of the cannon on a rail slung under the tube. During their ride they witnessed the bright flare of Robyn’s lander as she made good her escape and Nadab called it in. His superiors weighed whether to recall the technicians and send armed nephilim out there instead, but in the end they decided to let the technicians continue to the site to make their inspection, and added instructions for them to check for any damage to the tube itself which might have been made by intruders.

When their little pressurized capsule reached the end of the rail, Danyel cycled the air back into storage and led the way outside in his pressure suit to begin the inspection of the mouth of the tube. They were careful not to intrude their head or limbs into the carbon ion beam, which would have immediately ripped their suit. They found no damage and reported that fact to the control room, then proceeded down the ladder mounted on the pylon to reach the dark surface of the planet.

Before he even touched the ground, Nadab was sliced in half across his midsection by Lilith wielding the Golden Gift. She then touched the end of the black beam to the base of the antenna on Danyel’s pack to disable his radio transmitter. Raising a finger, she gestured for Danyel to climb back up the ladder once more. Shocked by the sudden death of his companion and fearing for his own life, Danyel moved deliberately to make sure the intruder did not suspect he was going to make a break for it and use the tram to get away from her.

Lilith seated herself in the tram where Nadab had been seated, then motioned for Danyel to follow after her. After more sign language, Danyel gathered that Lilith wanted him to close the exterior hatch and pressurize the little capsule so they could speak. As he did so she retracted the macro effect of the Golden Gift so it wouldn’t consume their air faster than it could be supplied.

When the capsule was fully pressurized Danyel removed his helmet to show it was safe to do so. “Why did you kill poor Nadab like that?”

Lilith removed her own helmet so Danyel could see he as dealing with a human woman. “Because you’re trespassing.”

And Danyel had no reply to that. Every nephil in the Sol System was fully aware of the Four AU Rule. No Centauri settlements were allowed on any body with a heliocentric orbit whose semi-major axis was not greater than four times the distance of the Earth from the Sun.

“What is this tube?” Lilith demanded to know, pointing upward with the inert ingot that was the Golden Gift.

“It’s a very, very long ion cannon,” Danyel said.

“I already know the payload is carbon, but why is it so long?”

“Because it has to develop a speed of thirty miles a second.”

The picture was becoming more clear to her. That was the speed of Mercury itself as it went around the sun. “Is this the only tube there is?”

“There are twenty-three more just like it, radiating out from the very north pole of the planet. But this is the only one that is operating right now.”

Lilith saw it now. “Let me guess. Each tube operates for about a week, then shuts down and the one next door starts to operate, again for a week.”

“Correct.”

“What is your name and what do you do?”

“I am Danyel. I help maintain all this hardware.”

“Very well, Danyel, and I am sure you are a good technician, but now it is time for you to become a good actor. Whether you live or die will depend on how well you do. You will tell your boss that you need to return to base and have someone drive a crane out here to right the fallen Refinery that’s blocking the way. That part will be easy because it’s entirely true. The hard part will be to avoid mentioning that Nadab is dead and that I have taken his place.”

“That’s not much of a choice. When they find out I have helped an intruder they will kill me anyway.”

“You may be right, Danyel, so allow me to amend my statement to, ‘whether you live or die right now will depend on how well you do.’ And when they have allowed you to return in the tram, you will stop in a place where I will find nobody waiting for us. Then, and only then, I will permit you to go unharmed.”

Lilith did not feel an overwhelming sense of remorse for killing Nadab and threatening Danyel. After all, they were doing much more than merely trespassing, they were helping to kill her.

The carbon beam emerging from the tube overhead was moving at precisely the speed and direction it would require to cancel out Mercury’s rotation and speed of revolution around the sun. When the carbon left the pipe, it was motionless with respect to Sol. Gravity then began to pull the gas directly down to the sun. The nephilim were injecting carbon into the stellar body that was shared by El Shaddai and Bat-El. But why?

A quick survey of the Lore of the El soon provided a possible answer. There was a process inside all stars called the carbon cycle:

Carbon-12 fuses with a proton to form Nitrogen-13.
One of the protons emits a positron to form Carbon-13.
A proton capture produces Nitrogen-14.
Another proton capture produces Oxygen-15.
An energetic alpha particle is emitted to return to Carbon-12.
The cycle made the star a little bit hotter, and the carbon which was consumed was completely replaced. The carbon acted as a catalyst, much like the way man-made chemicals containing chlorine were slowly depleting the ozone layer over the Earth.

So what Mastema was having the nephilim he planted on Mercury do (Lilith refused to entertain the idea that nephilim like Nadab or Danyel really knew what they were doing) was stoke the stellar fires of Sol with an irreversible process.

Mastema couldn’t get the sun to go nova, Mercury would be vaporized long before that. But the delicate nuclear reactions which were manifested as the life of a living star depended on a stable temperature. Raising the baseline through the carbon cycle would kill the existing Elohim occupying Sol, both El Shaddai and Bat-El, and prepare the star for the quickening of a newborn.

That would solve a lot of problems for Mastema raised by the launch of Redemption toward Barnard’s Star.

After he was released as Lilith had promised, Danyel realized that although he was probably a dead nephil for allowing Lilith to enter the complex centered around the north pole of Mercury, the commanding officer of the installation would probably make it a much slower death if he failed to report Lilith’s presence as soon as he was free. So Danyel called it in as his least worst option.

The Cherub Thausael had been appointed personally by Asmodeus to command the operation on Mercury, and he was the only one fully appraised of its purpose. Before he could move, he needed to know who the intruder was. Subordinates began searching the displays of hundreds of security cameras looking for movement. For the time being any thought of reprisal against the technician who made the contact was an item far down on Thausael’s list of priorities. Besides, the technicians wasn’t even an ish, he had never faced the death combat. No one really expected him to lay down his life to thwart an intruder, even if it was expedient to let the technicians think so.

In short order Thausael had his image and Lilith’s face was presented to him in a freeze-frame. “Ah, Nithael,” he said to the ophan who was his chief of staff. “Do you know who that woman is?”

Nithael recognized her as well. “Our visitor seems to be Lilith Gervasi, sir,” he said. “The human incarnation of El Shaddai, even as Asmodeus is the nephil incarnation of Mastema.”

Thausael nodded his head. “I have a terrible dilemma, Nithael. Did you know that one time this same woman stormed into the throne room on Palato and killed all the Eyes blocking the way between her and our Lord, yet he did nothing? Or that he had nephilim tortured to death who spoke of her in a tone of contempt? She is, after all, his own daughter.”

Nithael said, “I heard of that incident on Palato, sir, and it makes me wonder what the Lord Asmodeus would say right now, with Lilith walking around on Mercury freely. I do not envy your position.”

“Have our security forces attempt to surround her, Nithael, but advise them their macros will not work against her. They are not authorized to kill her in any event, by macro or any other weapon. They are authorized only to try to stun her and restrain her.”

“Yes sir!”

Lilith knew she was being shadowed by squads of nephilim here and there, lurking behind corners and moving in such a way as to try to steer her away from the place where all the ion cannons came together at a single point. No snipers tried to take a shot, which told her they had orders to take her alive, something she was prepared to make singularly difficult for them to do.

Lilith did not marvel at the seeming coincidence that Robyn’s “situation” that allowed them to steal some Bots had occurred precisely at the end of the one ion cannon out of twenty-four that was currently operating on Mercury, allowing her investigation to proceed this far. The current track in reality, which Lilith called “Timeline Paydirt”, had been chosen precisely because it was the one where Mastema’s murder plot was finally laid bare. And Lilith had fully unraveled it. There remained only the task of setting the killing operation back for a short time, a temporary reprieve that would give her as El Shaddai and Yeshua Bat-El the space to carry out a more permanent victory.

And so, with the armed forces under Ophan Nithael finally closing their noose around her, Lilith found herself staring down into the heart of the operation, a vast and intricate mechanism at the core of the twenty-four ion accelerators, built under the surface of Mercury precisely on the north pole.

Nithael called out, “Lady Lilith Gervasi, lay down your weapons and surrender. You have nowhere to go. We honor you as an eloah and the offspring of the Lord Mastema, but you will not be permitted to harm our operation here.”

In response, Lilith said nothing, but armed a macro grenade and threw it down into the pit. Immediately, dozens of shots were taken by the nephilim security forces, and some of these hit the grenade. The detonator was disabled, and the grenade bounced down into the machinery harmlessly, failing to explode.

After that, the nephilim surrounding her drew a bit nearer, and pointed their weapons directly at her, but Lilith still suspected they were not authorized to fire. That led directly to her final option, which was to take her last macro grenade and leap into the pit herself, balling up into a fetal position to allow her own body to serve as a human shield to protect the grenade. This time the weapon did detonate, and it was far from harmless.

As Robyn had foreseen, so ended the human life of Lilith Gervasi, concentration camp survivor, Nazi hunter, IDF officer, born in 1928 in the UK, dying forty-nine years later on Mercury, the second and final human incarnation of the living sun El Shaddai.